The Growth of Jimmy Carter's Reputation
How we are perceived and judged now doesn't always have to be permanent
Jimmy Carter became President of the United States when I was in high school. When I think back at his presidency I don’t remember him, as a nation’s leader, being as respected and for many, as admired, as he is now.
Likely in the final days of his long (98 years) life, Carter is widely respected as a man and human, and admired by many for his gentleness, selflessness and humanity.
So, what’s the point you may ask.
The 39th president didn’t have as polarizing a reputation as Donald Trump while he was in the White House yet he certainly was not a beloved leader and figure. Now, as a person, he doesn’t have critics and when he soon passes, the media coverage and public sentiment, in large part I suspect, will be positive or glowing.
A less than sterling or poor reputation can be permanent. This we know. No argument. Yet for most, reputation is fluid. It can decay, be destroyed in a moment or over a short time or yes, it can also gradually improve and improve and improve.
That’s what happened for Carter. He didn’t have as much room to make up reputation-wise as say, anyone caught up in scandalous, egregious behavior yet the Carter of today is valued and will be remembered much more fondly than the man decades ago.
There’s a lesson here. Who we are today doesn’t necessarily have to be who we are tomorrow or in the coming weeks, months, years or decades. We can continue to evolve as people. For some of us we can decided to put a gradual or hard stop to the downward spiral of our behavior or our humanity. As a result, people’s experiences, perceptions and judgments of us can change for the better, sometimes significantly.
Michael Toebe writes “Reputation Notes” and is the founder and specialist at Reputation Quality, a practice that serves and assists successful people and organizations in further building reputation as an asset and responsibly, ethically protecting, restoring or reconstructing it.
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